As UK citizens enjoyed the May bank holiday, conservationists and animal welfare campaigners across the world celebrated. Minister Barbara Creecy of the Department for Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) announced on Sunday her plans to put an end to captive lion breeding in South Africa once and for all. The processes that the DFFE put in place will halt the sale of captive lion derivatives (such as bone), the hunting of captive bred lions, and tourist interactions with captive lions such as cub petting.
This landmark decision comes after the results and recommendations of a two-year study by the DFFE on the controversial practice of captive lion breeding were published. The Ministerial High-Level Panel identified that:
“The captive lion breeding industry poses risks to the sustainability of wild lion conservation resulting from the negative impact on ecotourism, which funds lion conservation and conservation more broadly, the negative impact on the authentic wild hunting industry, and the risk that trade in lion parts poses to stimulating poaching and illegal trade”
Currently up to 12,000 lions are bred in captivity for commercial purposes. Many are used in exploitative tourism interactions, such as cub petting and ‘walking with lions’ opportunities. As the lions age and mature, they are subject to a short and unethical lifespan of canned hunting for their trophies and/or the legal export of lion bones to South East Asia for traditional medicine. FOUR PAWS released its Vicious Cycle report in March 2021, highlighting serious welfare concerns at breeding facilities – not only of the animals being kept, but in some instances workers, too.
But what about the UK?
This announcement is a critical first step to help push for a ban on trophy imports in the UK. On 11th May we will see the proposed ban’s third iteration in the Queen’s Speech, but with this news we could finally see tangible results.
A new opinion poll by Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting shows that 85% (up from 75% in 2019) of voters agree on an immediate ban on trophy hunters bringing back trophies of wild animals to the UK, regardless of the vulnerability of the species and if a proportion of funds are donated to ‘government conservation plans’. Conservative voters in particular have exhibited growing support for the ban, with a 21% increase over the last two years from 68% to 89% (from a polling group of 1,013 adults).
Our own prime minister, Boris Johnson, has described the practice of killing animals such as elephants and lions and importing their body parts as ‘trophies’ as barbaric, with party support from the environment minister Lord Goldsmith and Sir Roger Gale MP. It is clear that the British public want this archaic practice to stop, and we hope that with this news our Government will see that anything other than banning the import of trophies is nonsensical.